The season is down to one final day, and for the Orioles, two final games in today’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays. When Game No. 162 is over, an Oriole is likely to be leading the American League in stolen bases and that has been a rarity in team history.
But who will win the title with two contenders going? O’s shortstop Jorge Mateo is the current AL leader with 35 and his teammate center fielder Cedric Mullins is next at 34.
“It’s been fun. Just going back and forth,” Mullins said about competing with a teammate for the league steals lead. “It was funny when he went back up by two or three not too long and I came back and caught back up. Just Monday for example, I knew he would be aggressive when he got on base. We’re going to bring it down to the wire and see what happens.
“I think that makes it even more interesting, having someone on the same team competing with you for the stolen base title. We’re both pulling for each other. It’s an interesting dynamic for sure.”
Just three times since the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954 has an Oriole led the AL in steals. Luis Aparicio did so with 40 in 1963 and 57 in 1964. It happened just once since when Brian Roberts stole 50 bags in 2007 and was a co-leauge leader with Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay.
Mullins stole two bases on Friday at New York and his 34 steals represents a career high. He said he and Mateo have tried to help each other all year in reading pitcher moves to first base and any other tips they could provide each other.
“When we feel like there are opportunities for either one of us to get a bag, we are constantly giving each other feedback in what we are looking for," Mullins said. "And when one of us is on base, the other guy has a chance to watch and maybe pick up something as well.”
Added Mateo, who once stole 82 bases in the minors: “We talk a lot during the games. He sees something or I see something and we help each other. We have talked about this throughout the year.”
Mullins and Mateo are the first O's teammates with at least 30 steals in a season since Corey Patterson (37) and Brian Roberts (50) in 2007. Mullins is the fourth player in O's history with back-to-back 30 stolen base seasons (last: Roberts, 2006-09).
Mateo said, of course he wants to be No. 1 at the end.
“Yeah for sure. Going to do the best I can do to try and finish on top," he said. "That was one of my goals for the year. I love it. I love the competition, even with a teammate.”
O's teammates have never finished first and second in the league in stolen bases and it has not happened in a full major league season since 1992 when Montreal's Marquis Grissom (78) and Delino DeShields (46) led the National League. It has not happened in the AL since 1971 with Kansas City's Amos Otis (52) and Freddie Patek (49) doing so.